The Most Humane Prison in the World

Published July 28, 2011
Updated January 18, 2018

A fascinating look inside what's been called the most humane prison in the world: Halden Prison in Norway, featuring cells with flat screen televisions.

When one thinks of prisons and prison life, thoughts often drift to depictions found in Oz or the Wire: full of hard living and sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

However, there is one prison is Norway that has been called the most humane prison in the world: Halden Prison.

Most Humane Prison in the World

Halden Prison opened early in 2010 with a capacity of 252 prisoners. The prisoner cells include flat-screen televisions, which officials say are necessary so that prisoners have less room for drugs and contraband. Designer furniture, mini-fridges, and en suite bathrooms complete the prison cells.

Halden Prison Photograph

Halden Jail Norway

Humane Prison of Norway Picture

Half of the guards are females, and guns are not usually carried because they create “unnecessary intimidation and social distance.” During the day, inmates can shoot hoops, climb the indoor rock wall, go jogging or make use of the soccer field.

The philosophy behind this is that an occupied prisoner is less a violent prisoner, and thus is less likely to lash out at guards or other inmates.

Most Humane Prison Halden Prison Norway

Halden

Though the statistics are calculated differently in each country, only 20% of Norwegian prisoners return to jail within 2 years, compared to 50-60% in the US. Prisoner governor Are Hoidal was quoted as saying: “In the Norwegian prison system, there’s a focus on human rights and respect. We don’t see any of this as unusual.”

The Norwegian prison system, and Halden Prison in particular, have been in the spotlight recently due to the incarceration of Norwegian terrorist Behring Breivik.

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